Construction Begins on Living Roof for Hamerschlag Hall


May 3, 2005

Faculty, staff and students work across disciplines to create rooftop garden

Carnegie Mellon University faculty, staff and students and the university's Environmental (Green) Practices Committee have started construction of a "living roof," or rooftop garden, on Hamerschlag Hall's south roof.

The project, The Living Roof: Community Supported Design for a Sustainable Future, will help with storm-water management, energy conservation, aesthetics and habitat improvement for the building, which contains classrooms, labs and office space.

David Dzombak, co-director of the Green Practices Committee and professor of civil and environmental engineering, said, "The project will serve as a model and test case for our region. It will also serve to advance the environmental awareness and education of our entire campus community."

The landscaping and construction started on April 25 and is scheduled to be complete by the end of May.

Planning for the project began four years ago when Bachelor of Humanities and Arts student Diane Loviglio, Landis Kauffman (A 2002) and Aria Thomases (A 2002) applied for a Small Undergraduate Research Grant (SURG) to study living roofs. They studied how much a living roof project would cost and what various aspects of planting would be beneficial for a large building, for example, which plants filter air.

When Loviglio found out that Hamerschlag Hall's south roof needed repairs, she, along with Kauffman, started the team known as the Green Roof Initiative to look at the Hamerschlag site specifically. Since then the team has expanded to include Carnegie Mellon faculty and staff and the Carnegie Mellon Green Practices Committee.

The design for the roof garden includes a small pond, grasses, perennials and a log with holes drilled in to sustain insects. There will also be a small walkway for visitors to overlook the garden and signage from behind a railing.

The living roof has been contracted to H.J. Hickman, a roofing contractor, and specifically Jorg Bruening, from Green Roof Service LLC. Bob Bingham, associate professor of art, and Barbara Kviz, the environmental coordinator for Carnegie Mellon and co-director of the Green Practices Committee, were the students' advisors.

The Carnegie Mellon team and the Green Practices Committee are not the only organizations that are beginning to build rooftop gardens on campus. Yale University and Swarthmore University are examples of how campus communities are beginning to realize the advantages of rooftop gardens.

According to Bingham, "This project is research. Hopefully rooftop gardens will start taking off in this country more than they already have. Our plan for this project is to see that the roof doesn't leak and whether the garden conserves water and saves money or not."

Students in Bingham's class are currently drafting a manifesto in which they argue that green roofs should be planted on all the buildings on Carnegie Mellon's campus because of their ecological value. On Earth Day, Bingham's class installed small modular green roof units on buildings such as Doherty Hall, Porter Hall and Mellon Institute.

Bingham said the Earth Day event and the living roof project are supposed to raise awareness in the Carnegie Mellon community and initiate discussion and plans for future designs for rooftop gardens. He added that the roof on Hamerschlag Hall is an important beginning for what might one day become a system for growing sustainable gardens. "One day, the food for students might come from the gardens grown on the buildings on campus," he said.

Kviz said that the project has been a culmination of community support. "Sustainable practice development needs a community approach and nurturing to be successful. The Hamerschlag Hall 'living roof' illustrates that traditional projects can have a sustainable solution," she said.

As part of the Carnegie Mellon strategic initiative to enhance the scope and impact of the Carnegie Mellon education and research programs related to environment, the Environmental (Green) Practices Committee (EPC) was charged in April 1999 by President Cohon to develop a plan for an expanded environmental practices program on campus. The rooftop garden on Hamerschlag Hall has been funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and 3 Rivers Wet Weather, Inc.

To view live construction, visit the Green Roof Project NetCam.

Hamerschlag Hall living roof construction begins.